Firefly expert Marc Branham of New York's American Museum of Natural History (and Ohio State University) wondered what was it in a specific flash pattern that was attractive to females. He studied this question by videotaping and analyzing fireflies' flash patterns. As a further step, he and John Mircle and Michael Greenfield of the University of Kansas also developed a computerized device that simulated the male flash pattern, so that he could observe the females' responses.
Marc's research showed that a female firefly's responding or not responding to a male's flash may depend on the rate or speed of the male's flashes. His computer testing showed to the females simulated male flashes at average rates, and also flashes that were at above-average and below-average rates too. He even created some above-average and below-average rates that were beyond the rates that fireflies could produce naturally.
I'm Not Giving You the Time of Day!
What does a faster flash rate tell a female about a male? Marc theorizes that:
Lights Out Please!
If you were a male firefly, what surrounding conditions would you want in order to get your flash pattern seen? You would want to have extra light reduced or eliminated! A firefly's ability to see other fireflies' flashes may be impaired if there is too much surrounding light. Think about it, it would be like trying to see a flashlight in the daylight. Also, it seems that some firefly species may not even flash at all if there is too much light. As Marc explains it: